Those fleeing from major cities like New York to evade the COVID-19 pandemic might stretch already limited rural healthcare resources beyond their limit, says Pamela Stewart Fahs, professor and expert in rural nursing at Binghamton University, State University of New York.

“During times of public health or natural disasters, people who have the resources have historically fled cities to more rural locations,” said Fahs. “In the case of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been some evidence that this is occurring, and with this highly contagious virus, rural area health resources may soon be stretched to the limit. Those passing through rural areas may unknowingly spread a virus if they stop for fuel, food or temporary lodging.”

Current rural hotspots, such as ski areas in Colorado, have seen virus transmission from both domestic and international visitors before travel bans were put into place. Rural areas that are vacation spots are more likely to see earlier COVID-19 cases than more difficult-to-access or less-popular rural places.

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